Interview with Muqaddisa Mehreen, Education Specialist, UNICEF Pakistan
7 December 2010 – NEW YORK
Muqaddisa Mehreen has over 12 years of experience as a development professional with expertise in social policy, knowledge management and gender and international dev. A PhD Fellow at the University of Massachusetts John.W.McCormick Graduate School of Policy Studies (Boston, USA), Mehreen is working as an education specialist with UNICEF Pakistan country office to mainstream gender into policies and processes. She has written a number of publications on gender issues in the education in Pakistan and has been associated with some of the leading think tanks in South Asia and Americas including MIT, Harvard and McGill university.
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“This is Muqaddissa Mehreen, I’m working as an Education Specialist with the Pakistan country office, UNICEF.
Well, in terms of the situation in Pakistan after 100 days, as you can imagine, the flood, the catastrophe has been huge. There’s been a lot of suffering. 20 million people have been affected by it, the majority of them being children. We have around 5 million school age children that were affected.
Although we’ve moved now from the relief phase and we are heading to early recovery efforts, because of the scale of it, it’s a huge calamity. Therefore now, when you look back, on the positive side you do see that a lot of people have gone back, are trying to move back to some of the affected areas, and schools are reopening. But then there are major challenges ahead, because there is huge school damage and we have around 10,000 plus schools, we have partially damaged schools, we have fully damaged schools.
So we still have a long way to go, I guess, as a country.
There is a need for a lot more funding, and it seems that those gaps still need to be filled in. So how do you ensure you get money from other partners, donor agencies, and then ensure that those needs for the children are filled? Particularly when you have winter coming up and it’s very cold in some of the areas here and for some of the children, from the recent reports received, there is this eminent danger of pneumonia, which again can prove to be fatal for the children.
Well as far as the hope for the future in Pakistan is concerned, although we have a long way to go, I would also like to add that we are a very resilient nation. And Pakistan has gone through many catastrophes and calamites in the past. What’s more important right now I think is for the nation to be together and to have that trust again in themselves.
And I just hope and pray as a Pakistani, that we stick and have that faith and commitment within ourselves, as a resilient nation to face yet another calamity and stand up to it. And look at it as a window of opportunity for us to turn this emergency into a great opportunity, where we can increase the numbers, where we can provide quality education. Because it was not there in many of these areas. So maybe this is an opportunity to address that, and provide opportunities to the excluded and the marginalized lot that forms the majority of our population.”